Being a fan of anything we love sometimes leads us to have lofty dreams, ideals and visions of grandeur for them that give us a deep affinity for that which we love and enjoy. We hope and dream they can and will succeed just like we imagine. For me, I’m a fan of Everton FC, an English football/soccer team founded in 1878 in Liverpool. Us Evertonians, as we’re called, have a proud tradition as one of the founder members of the English Football League; we’ve won nine league titles, five FA cups and have a proud history. Though I will always love my team and hope for a return to the days when we were top of the league, sometimes life has a way of biting you in the ass and dishing out a harsh dose of reality that we struggle to swallow. For my beloved Everton, it’s acknowledging that despite a billionaire investor and plans for a new stadium, we’re still a million miles away from silverware and a long way away from the Manchester United’s and City’s of this world with their glittering trophy cabinet, massive profits and huge stadia. Improvement takes time, and despite the protests of fans up and down the country, the powers that be, the money men and investors are ultimately the ones who make decisions. You can wax lyrical all you want about how your favourite sport or team used to be for the people back in the ‘golden era’, when it was all about the fans, but the hard, brutal fact of today is that almost everything is a business and money matters, period.
When it comes to WWE, that old adage that Triple H has always spouted; ‘best for business’ rings truer today than ever before. With the company on the verge of signing an improved TV deal (it’s expected to be announced before September of this year) and the profits soaring to near record levels, from a financial perspective, WWE is in a good place. For those investors, owners and stockholders, the time is now to be involved in WWE. So what does this have to do with fans? Plain and simple, hardly anything at all. Any business model tells you that to succeed in business; one must adapt and evolve to meet the demands of a changing market. Cost cutting is an important part of the financial responsibility for any of us, and WWE has done that too, whilst still increasing their revenue (man, I miss the pyro). They’ve done these things purely for financial reasons. Do you miss the pyro every week on Raw and Smackdown Live too? That’s tough because it isn’t coming back. It’s not cost-effective, and what do they care what I think anyway?
I think this is where the fan, like me, has to realize that no matter how much affection you have for WWE and the content within, you’re not the main concern for them, but your wallet is. For all of the online gripes about WWE PPVs and the threats of cancelling WWE Network subscriptions, it doesn’t materialize and WWE knows that. Sure, there will be a few disgruntled fans who will chuck their toys out of the pram in protest, but they’re tiny in comparison to those still keeping their subscriptions. To bring it back to the sports analogy, threats are always made by fans to not attend a game to send a message to the owners, yet week after week, thousands will be there regardless. The minority will never have their voices heard if the majority continue to flock in their droves.
Does all of this mean a shift in how WWE will structure their programming or how they present the product? Highly unlikely in my opinion. Bear in mind that if the last, say six months or so, have been very profitable for WWE through their major income streams (TV Deals, ticket sales, merchandise, Network subscriptions etc.) then those on the board and the ones holding the purse strings counting the dollar bills will have a simple message to the company; keep doing what you’re doing. It’s bringing in money. That’s not to say WWE will stand still, but they’ll keep going along the path they’re currently on because at the end of the day, the money is rolling in, so why change anything? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Unfortunately for us fans, the current WWE climate talent-wise isn’t something we’re overly-enamored with.
Look at it from this perspective; if you were on the WWE board and knew nothing about the product whatsoever (you’re only there for the business-side of things), and you’re told the outlook is promising for the year ahead and the past year has been profitable, what would your message be to the producers of the show? Keep doing whatever wrasslin’ things you do. And the reply you get is ‘yes, sir’. So what does that WWE board member say to the producers of Raw and Smackdown Live?
‘So that absent WWE Universal Champion on Raw? A good idea. Profitable, even. Best for business. Keep doing that. Keep paying him to stay off TV and make rare appearances because it’s clearly working. ‘
‘How about that new Women’s Champion on Smackdown Live? The loud one, the underdog? Best for business. Money. Keep her doing what she’s doing. The old champion clearly wasn’t marketable and any feuds with the Japanese star we hired mustn’t have been working out.’
‘So even though the crowd boos the Reigns guy, we’re still selling his merchandise? Great, keep doing just that and having him on the shows. It must be working.’
‘I’ve never heard of this Dave Bautista guy, so he can’t be that famous. We don’t need no movie star on our shows. The fans wouldn’t like that at all. Just look at the numbers, they speak for themselves. Tell him no.’
It’s weird to hear things like that as a WWE fan, isn’t it? Yet, it’s not completely unbelievable. It’s not just WWE where scenarios or thought processes like those above happen. They happen in businesses across the world.
Money talks, my friends, and as long as WWE keeps turning profits, there’s no reason in their eyes to change one bit. Sure, some fat will be trimmed here and there, but the message from corporate, from the decision makers and bean counters is to carry on regardless. Our voices may be loud, but they’re muffled by the millions of dollars streaming into the product.
World Wrestling Entertainment will always sell tickets. They’ll always sell merchandise and people will always watch it on TV. Advertisers will pay to be associated with the company and companies like Under Armour, Subway, Pizza Hut and the E! Network will flock to have their products showcased around the world in conjunction with WWE. It’s sad, but true that the fans of wrestling, just pure wrestling, like us are fast becoming an afterthought in favour of the almighty dollar. We can’t even turn green with envy as all the top-brass in WWE sees is green. We’re blurred into the background and it sucks. Our thoughts, hopes and opinions aren’t best for business, but as long as we keep paying for the privilege of griping about WWE, we’ll still be ignored.